Friday, March 10, 2006

The personal touch

March 7

“Chefs and restaurateurs are the worst,” a publicist who works with many chefs and restaurateurs told me this evening. She didn’t mean it generally; she meant they’re the worst to get to RSVP to events.
NRN’s event planners found that to be the case recently when they invited a bunch of restaurant people to a dinner we were throwing in New York for the Soyfoods Council. They asked just about everyone in New York they could think of, and got exactly one RSVP. So I e-mailed a bunch of New York restaurant publicists, asked for help, and got one more RSVP.
So I picked up the phone and did some personal cajoling while the event people wracked their brains in search of someone they might have forgotten to invite.
The personal touch worked and we ended up with a very high-quality group, including some semi-celebrities. Young rising star Josh DeChellis, chef of Sumile and Jovia and a fan of all products Japanese, came. So did Johan Svensson of Riingo, and his wife Jessica, who handles special events for BLT Prime. Riingo’s the little sister of Aquavit, but whereas Aquavit’s food is a little bit Swedish, Riingo draws influence from Japan (ringo is “apple” in Japanese. The extra ‘i’ was added so people wouldn’t confuse it with The Beatles drummer)
Steve and Elena Kapelonis, who own The Pump Energy Food, came, too. They market their food as being good for you, so of course, soy’s right up their alley.
Rickshaw Dumpling Bar owner Kenny Lao came. He fries many of his dumplings (although, to his surprise, his steamed dumplings are more popular), and the whole point of the dinner was to introduce new soy frying oil that maintains a long shelf life without being hydrogenated.
Simon Glenn, the chef of Brooklyn restaurant and jazz club Night and Day, came, too. So did Hoc Van Tran, chef of Le Colonial. He was the only guest I hadn’t met before, and the first one to RSVP.
During a reception at which we sampled cucumber infused edamame martinis and a variety of beers brewed by soybean farmers that contained soybean, we also had tofu firecrackers, which were chunks of fried tofu soaked in chile sauce, crudités and pickled shrimp from the Commander’s Palace cookbook.
Then we had edamame soup with lobster ravioli and truffled tofu foam.
Next we had two (soy) bean salad with roasted shallots and miso vinaigrette.
After that came braised veal cheeks and tempeh, and roasted veal tenderloin with porcini sauce.
For dessert we had lemon soy pudding, banana beignets and chocolate pecan cookies.
That was Sunday.
I was planning a late night in the office on Monday, but an e-mail sent to me while I was in Houston last week suggested that I might have dinner at I Coppi instead, where I met two TV producers. I don’t meet TV people too often; they must get invited to different parties. So I went. We talked about, among other things, the power of Oprah Winfrey and whether it was good or bad, while I Coppi’s chef sent out a couple of pizzas — one with four cheeses, and a white one with arugula and pine nuts — four types of pasta — pappardelle with wild boar, orange-scented gnocchi, cheese-filled agnolotti, and “farroto,” which is like risotto, but made with farro, with broccoli raab and other greenery — cinghiale (more wile boar), and several desserts.
On Tuesday I was shocked and delighted to see Niloufar Motamed again. Nilou’s an editor at Travel + Leisure and one of the best people to spend a long dinner with. But she doesn’t go out much anymore and I hadn’t seen her in probably two years. As she was leaving on Tuesday I insisted that she come out more, but she ignored me. One of her rivals for the award of best dining companion, Julie Besonen from Paper, was there, too. I didn’t get to chat with her much during dinner at Public, sponsored by the New Zealand venison people, but was happy instead to get to know Public’s chef Brad Farmerie, and Nate Millado of Men’s Fitness.
Both of them seemed like great guys, and you never know when I might want to invite them to an event.

What I ate and drank at Public
Marinated white anchovies on quinoa croquettes with spicy saffron aïoli
Venison Scotch eggs on cucumber, hijiki and pomegranate salad
Mushroom ceviche with miso aubergines and ginger ponzu sauce
Mini venison burgers on miso buns with three toppings
Daniel Le Brun No1 Cuvée, NV, Marlborough, New Zealand

Spicy Thai venison salad with lime and chile dressing
Framingham “Dry Riesling” 2002, Marlborough, New Zealand

Grilled scallops with sweet chile sauce crème fraîche and green plantain crisps
Kumeu River Pinot Gris, 2004, Auckland, New Zealand

Roasted New Zealand venison loin, Cabrales dumplings, oyster mushrooms and salsa verde
Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir, 2003, Central Otago, New Zealand

Sticky toffee pudding with Armagnac ice cream and hot caramel sauce
Martinborough Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling, 1996, Martinborough, New Zealand

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